NYCLU Applauds Senate’s Historic Vote on Marriage

June 24, 2011 —  The New York Civil Liberties Union and American Civil Liberties Union tonight applauded the State Senate for passing historic legislation to give lesbian and gay couples the freedom to marry in New York State.

“Today a critical mass of New York’s Republican senators put politics aside, reached across the aisle and stood on the right side of history by supporting fairness and equality for all New Yorkers,” said NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman. “This historic, bipartisan vote is a victory for families and a victory for human rights. Now, all loving couples in our state can enjoy the dignity, respect and legal rights that marriage provides.”

Democrats and Republicans united to passed the bill in a 33 to 29 vote. The State Assembly has repeatedly passed marriage legislation, and Governor Cuomo has made it a top priority.

Marriages between lesbian and gay New Yorkers entered into out-of-state are recognized in New York thanks to a 2008 NYCLU legal victory in Martinez v. County of Monroe. Following that victory, all of New York’s state agencies revised their policies to recognize marriages of same-sex couples performed in other jurisdictions. But until today, New Yorkers were unable to get married at home.

“New Yorkers should take pride in their legislature securing fairness and dignity for all families,” said James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project. “Lesbian and gay couples throughout New York live in committed relationships, some lasting for decades. When they make the commitment at the heart of marriage, it's not fair to exclude them from the protections that only marriage can provide.”

“This is a proud day for New Yorkers who value fairness, families and love,” said Melissa Goodman, NYCLU senior litigation and policy counsel for LGBT rights. “But our work will not be complete until the federal government recognizes the relationships of every lesbian and gay couple who choose to marry in New York.”

The NYCLU and ACLU will continue to fight to ensure that the marriages of same-sex couples in New York will be recognized and respected by the federal government by continuing their legal challenge to the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, a law that bars the federal government from recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples.

New York’s marriage law, which Governor Cuomo has said he will sign, will mean that six states – Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont and Iowa – plus the District of Columbia, provide the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. More than 34 million Americans live in states where couples who are lesbian and gay can marry.

Just this year, three states (Illinois, Hawaii and Delaware) created civil unions for same-sex couples, bringing the total number of civil union states to eight. Three more states provide more limited domestic partnership registries for same-sex couples.